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Impeachment push grows to 75 lawmakers. TRANSCRIPT: 6/21/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Michelle Goldberg, Raul Ruiz, Marc Ginsberg, Tom Steyer, Pete Rock

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Quick reminder, see my exclusive sit down with President Trump on MEET THE PRESS DAILY, this Sunday on your local NBC station. I don`t think there`s a subject we didn`t touch. "THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now. Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening Chuck, we`re going to get into all the substance of it obviously, but you have a big interview like this, what did you learn, what do you take from it, sitting as you have with other Presidents, with the President of United States with all this stuff going on?

TODD: Well, look, I interviewed him during the campaigns a lot. This is the first time I`ve had him as President on the record. I`ve seen before. What`s amazing it was and I thought today which told me a lot about his decision making with Iran, he`s just - he loved - I think he loves the fact that his decision surprised a lot of people.

I think it was a reminder that that that how he wants his administration to run, everything goes through him, through nobody else, I think in some ways it was a perfect microcosm explaining his leadership style. Whatever you think of it, it always goes through him and last night and his description of it, this morning is just exhibit--

MELBER: You know, it`s fascinating when you put it like that because a lot of people in national security circles will be concerned about the New York Times story or the leaks he seemed to lean in and say yep, it`s all about me, it`s all about my call and Chuck--

TODD: Yes, I don`t think - look, I will never know this for sure, I don`t know if he ever intended to greenlight that strike.

MELBER: Right, hear you there. I look forward to living in it, watching more of it and you`re going to be very busy throughout from Sunday on through next week, we`ll all be watching Chuck Todd, always good to see you Sir.

TODD: Thank you Sir.

MELBER: Thank you. Tonight on THE BEAT, we have several major stories. You just heard about one of Donald Trump`s Iran missile standoff, and new reports about the advice he`s getting from Fox news on those momentous decisions that I was just discussing with Chuck.

There are - this is brand new so you may not have heard about it, newly leaked messages, new to the world between Paul Manafort and the conservative leader about the secret pressure he was facing from Mueller`s prosecutors and tonight something we`ve been working on this week.

I have a special report about, as Congress hears the evidence on Trump`s criminal obstruction, as the impeachment caucus grows, I have a special report on what is really fact in this obstruction matter. Something that Donald Trump keep spinning on including in some of these interviews so we think, we hope that could be useful factually.

That`s all in the broadcast tonight, our top story a Trump administration plan that echoes the launch of the Trump re-election campaign this week. The Trump administration announcing this series of nationwide raids to happen this weekend to deport families inside the United States slated for 10 major cities on Sunday focusing on migrants who they say, have already been ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge.

Now there is nothing new about a coordinated federal immigration raid. Every administration does deport unlawful immigrants but the Trump administration`s approach is different here in both scale and its public thrust including the President claiming he would remove, "millions of people." Now today the officials say that the DHS, the actual numbers closer to the low thousands.

Trump both claims he`s cracking down, you hear that but then in these new interviews, he also claims this is all the status quo even name checking Obama as his inspiration. Now we have a new interview about to show you. The bottom line here is that yes, Obama did separate families on an individual basis, we should note that but as a factual matter, his administration never prioritized zero tolerance or family separation has a goal like the Trump administration which is why there are thousands of children taken from their families.

With that context because I`d like to show you the facts first, take a listen to this exchange from a new interview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Zero tolerance policy, was it a mistake.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s not a mistake. When I became President, President Obama had a separation process, I didn`t have it. He had it. I brought the families together, I`m the one that put them together. Under the Obama plan-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we`re talking about your plan.

TRUMP: No, we`re not because I`m the one that put people together. They separated, I put them together. Under Obama you had separation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Under a court order, right?

TRUMP: No, I put them together. I inherited separation and I changed the plan and I brought people together.


MELBER: Few things here first, note that for all the complaints and hype about attacking the press, Donald Trump now apparently does feel face some sort of pressure and feels the need to square off with independent journalists as he launches his re-election campaign, that`s why we have that exchange right there with Jose.

It`s a contrast to a governing period when he shut down all press conferences, every single one at the White House for months and mostly stuck in personal interviews to friendly interviewers. Now second, note that Donald Trump is pitching zero tolerance red meat to his based on the campaign trail and then what you just saw there he`s pitching Obama policies to the rest of the nation as if the two of them just sat together and built all these plans.

Now that is a substantively muddled pitch but it`s politically cunning and the campaign question is whether voters will learn that those things you just heard are falsehood and will they care?

The fact is the Obama administration had a strict deportation policy but it wasn`t zero tolerance and it wasn`t the same as Trump`s just like the fact is that Donald Trump pledged Mexico would pay for the wall and instead you are.

A fact that his 2020 Communications Director explained on this show last night with a new argument claiming that Mexico isn`t paying, sure but in a way - in a way maybe they are paying with a kind of a virtual currency.


MARC LOTTER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Mexico is paying a lot for our southern security and that--

MELBER: Not for the wall.

LOTTER: - that - I would call it a virtual wall.

MELBER: That`s your closing argument?


MELBER: That`s the closing argument, Trumps Justice Department meanwhile on defense defending a losing case this week when they were ordered to provide detained migrant children soap and toothbrushes, they`re appealing so they can deny the migrants those basic means.

I`m joined now by California Congressman Raul Ruiz who is also an emergency room doctor spearheading a bill that would actually provide that kind of medical and nutritional care to people who are in detention. New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg who`s writing a story about this today saying that family separation policy is not over and of course, Eleanor herself, Eleanor Clift with the Daily Beast who`s here for the serious news and I`m going to count on you later for fall back Friday.

But before we get to all that, we start with all the seriousness. Michelle, what do you think of the clear divided message that I`m trying to show everyone so that people can make sense of it, which is zero tolerance for the base, Obama for the National other TV interlinks.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it`s not a message, it`s just a lie, it`s just a blatant flat out lie and that`s sort of something that Trump often does. He on the one hand wants to be seen as tough, he likes to revel in his own sadism but he also way speaking to certain audiences you know, deep down although he can`t act in a way that makes himself loved, he wants to be loved.

And he wants to present himself as kind of a good guy, even more of a good guy than Obama but I think it`s worth noting that--

MELBER: So you`re saying he`s -

GOLDBERG: I think that the jury is still out on that but I actually, I think that it`s worth pointing out that although you remember, it was exactly a year ago yesterday that he signed that executive ostensibly banning family separation because there was such a national uproar.

And what people in the field are telling me is that family separation never stopped, it`s going on - you know, there`s - it`s going on through a legal loophole, some advocates worry that there`s going to be as many as 1000 cases by the end of the summer. There was an Associated Press story yesterday about truly horrific heart-breaking conditions of children being held for extended periods in really dirty, substandard care.

The reason that those children are in are being locked up all by themselves or with only other children to take care of them is because they are still being separated from their family members.

MELBER: Yes, Congressman, I want to get to the bill I mentioned, the work you`re doing but before we do, what is your response to the claim by not only the Trump administration but other folks who have a harsh or strong view about deportation, who say look, there was a lot of deportations under other administrations, it is a thing that happens.

Is there a particular concern that you see in these weekends raids that are different?

REP. RAUL RUIZ (D-CA): Absolutely. You know, while they`re asking for money to help the children and the humanitarian situation at the border, they`re saying that they want to now separate families and add to more harm to the children that that they`re going to need deporting their parents.

So it`s just a cruel attempt to rile up the base to create fear and continue these cruel policies.

MELBER: And tell us about the work you`re doing that for what you say, these individuals should get, in other words, we talk about this a lot in migration as well as criminal justice. Someone maybe under detention, it maybe lawful or they may be expelled under the rules of this country.

But we still owe them certain things like due process and human rights. Tell us about the work you`re doing on that.

RUIZ: Absolutely Ari. You mentioned that I`m an emergency medicine physician, I`m a public health expert. I`m a trained humanitarian but more than that I`m a father and the conditions that I`ve seen the children at these detention centers were just so sub-human that it just tears your soul and it really flips your moral compass of who you are as an individual and as a country.

You see children without diapers, dirty with mucus, coughing on each other in a room so full, you couldn`t even see the floor, in a situation where there`s open toilets and freezing rooms where they`re not really allowed to sleep overnight. It`s like torture, where they`re being woken up.

MELBER: You know what, so this thing you say, let me let you also hear something and we`ve reported earlier this week but I want everyone to hear it which was the pressure they got from the very conditions you just mentioned, from federal judges as the administration fights to continue to try to be able to deny you know, the tooth brushes, the blankets to children, take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn`t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was soap and that sounds so that`s part of say from sanitary. Are you disagreeing with that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you don`t have a blanket, it`s not safe and sound, wouldn`t everybody agree to that? Do you agree to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it`s - I think those are - there`s fair reason to find that those things may be part of safe and sound--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not maybe - are.


MELBER: Congressman.

RUIZ: I introduced a bill of the humanitarian standards for individuals with CBP -  under CBP custody precisely to make sure that we codify a certain set of behavioral norms that will meet the basic humanitarian needs of women, children families and in situations of water, sanitation and food hygiene as well as shelter to basically insure the basic conditions for a life with dignity and we`re not asking for much.

We`re asking for soap to wash your hands, allow them to bath daily, let them sleep at night, don`t wake them up, make sure that they have private toilets to use enough per certain amount of men and women. Make sure that there`s enough space for them to just move their elbows.

Make sure that they have a well-defined health screening within the first three hours for children, pregnant women, the elderly, that consist of an interview, vital signs, physical examination and an assessment and plan, consultation with an emergency care, a provider if there`s any abnormalities.

This will help prevent deaths of children and give professionalism and humanity back into a system that in an administration that lacks it.

MELBER: Yeah and we wanted to include what some of that work you`re doing in our coverage since we`ve been looking both at the problem and also what some are putting forward as solutions. Congressman, thank you so much for being on THE BEAT tonight.

RUIZ: Thank you, thank you very much.

MELBER: I know your time is limited. My panel stays and Eleanor, turning to you. Let`s get over to the politics of it. We are 12 minutes into the broadcast and we`ve been solidly on the policy and the facts which is important but it is politicians who make the policy, isn`t it?

When you see Donald Trump out there, what do you see, this week?

ELEANOR CLIFT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, every President inherits the problems that are left over from the previous administration and this President has taken these kind of chronic problems at the southern border, with Iran and he`s made them worse.

The numbers are up of people trying to come into this country, the cruelty is up. President Obama yes, he targeted people who had felonies, he didn`t go after hard working families and try to break them up and what this administration is putting out today, bordering roundups of thousands of people is chilling.

It`s inflicting, it`s terrorism on communities and--

MELBER: That`s a strong word, when you do it that way.

CLIFT: Terror is when you create fear among people and I think I think, it`s an appropriate use of the word and I think you`re going to see law enforcement not necessarily just wind up with the President on this.

That there is no such thing as an official sanctuary city but there are law enforcement people everywhere who regard the immigrants in their midst as people they want to protect so there could be some clashes here and I just don`t want to live in a country where you`re rounding up people.

The language is chilling and he`s doing it because he won election that way and this is you know, he thinks in television terms, this is a new episode and you got to - it`s like 24 coming back.

MELBER: Right.

CLIFT: You got to up all the confrontation.

MELBER: Up the fire and fury. I mean, I think there are plenty of people and we`ve had them on this show who would disagree object with the language you say but it is certainly the case as I mentioned in our introduction that unlike past administrations just doesn`t seem like a law enforcement mechanism where you go out to do it to get the results.

You actually are hyping it on Twitter and then publicly for days which is not as we say normal. Luckily, we don`t--

CLIFT: And people are living in fear because of this.

MELBER: Luckily, we don`t lose you as mentioned. Eleanor stays with me for the end of the show. My special thanks again to the Congressman and Michelle Goldberg. Coming up, divisions in Trump`s inner circle about national security and Fox news host weighing in.

Plus later my special report on what is going to come out of Hope Hicks` testimony. Why some experts say she just handed the Democrats a new weapon that could deliver new court victories and witnesses and later, progressive billionaire Tom Steyer joins me. He`s got a new ad saying he`s going to use his money to press the Dems on impeachment.

All that plus some tape from the archives the earliest footage we could find of some of these Democrats debating and how it tees up a lot of what`s coming including my specialist this Sunday night on MSNBC and then don`t go anywhere to the end of the hour because we got  Fall Back Friday with Eleanor and the one and only Pete Rock, all that tonight. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching a special edition of THE BEAT on MSNBC.



TRUMP: So we`re about ready to go. I said I want better Dems--

TODD: Were planes in the air?

TRUMP: No, we were about ready to go.

TODD: Yeah.

TRUMP: No, but they would have been pretty soon. And things would happened to a point where you wouldn`t turn back or couldn`t turn back.


MELBER: President Trump explaining how he took the military from about ready to go to calling off this air strike against Iran, that was a new interview with Chuck Todd. This account comes after with The Times reported military officials were, "expecting a strike last night." Many people including Trump`s critics are skeptical of his claims because he lies a lot.

Trump`s supporters are skeptical of media reporting in The New York Times but this is a story think about it, where Trump and The Times are in agreement. Both emphasizing that Trump brought us to the brink of a major attack.

Trump saying, he was cocked and loaded and there was evidence of that. But whether the U.S. was this close to a strike or farther or not close at all, that`s a nuance distinction. Trump`s clearly improvising during this vacuum in civilian leadership for the military.

The acting Pentagon Chief leaving the building, you see today in controversy after just five months in that role. And so if Trump was really heading toward the strike, who is filling that vacuum for military advice. TV host on Fox news.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The President will have no choice. He will bomb the hell out of them. We have the most advanced weapons systems and a strong message needs to be said that a huge price will be paid if you take on the United States of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would we talk to them, they`re blowing up tankers of our allies, then they blow up our drone and then we`ll talk to them, that looks so weak.


MELBER: But since Trump held back on the strike, does that mean he ultimately ignored Fox news. Maybe not because there`s new reporting tonight Fox host Tucker Carlson was privately urging Trump against war with Iran and then last night, he gave the President credit for being skeptical of the hawks.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: The very people, in some cases, literally the same people who lured us to the Iraq quagmire 16 years ago are demanding a new war, this one with Iran. The President to his great credit, appears to be skeptical of this, very skeptical.


MELBER: Now I want to be very clear. It`s totally possible Trump would do the same thing regardless of Fox news. Consider that much of his foreign policy is kind of a reverse Teddy Roosevelt. Speak loudly and don`t use the big stick whatever you do.

President has talked of fire and fury. He`s striking countries like Iran and North Korea before but he usually pulls back after the rhetoric. The main exception in his first two years on the job were those limited airstrikes against Syria. Will he continue to pull back from this week`s tension with Iran and if so, is he channeling his own instincts or Tucker Carlson`s?

I want to turn now to a former Clinton administration diplomat, Marc Ginsberg who also served as an adviser on Mideast policy in the Carter administration. Good evening to you and what do you think of this a very public way that Donald Trump has threatened and pulled back?

MARC GINSBERG, FMR AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO UNDER PRES. CLINTON: It`s the public reality show foreign policy version 1.0. And with respect to Iran, Ari, I don`t think the President knows from one day to the next what he wants to do on Iran. The fact of the matter is that the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal accelerated the impact of American sanctions on the Iranian economy.

I don`t think that neither he nor secretary Pompeo nor John Bolton really have the foggiest notion how Iran would react. You know, Ari, remember the title that movie, `Something`s got to give?`


GINSBERG: Well, that`s the Iranian policy today. They cannot accept the status quo of U.S. sanctions, that`s why they`re putting bombs on tankers, that`s why they`re going to shoot down drones, that`s why they`re providing missiles to Houthi rebels to shoot at airports in Dubai as well as in--

MELBER: Have you ever seen a President sort of delight in the will he or won`t he part of bombing another country?

GINSBERG: Oh yeah, I mean he was - this is this idea that somehow or other Trump does not have some methodology to his madness on this belies the fact that he is enjoying the spectacle of keeping everybody off balance.

MELBER: And is that in your view problematic in anyway or if you get the ultimate result, however curiously or ineptly and especially given the over lines and acting chiefs and the degradation of the non-partisan and expert folks but if you get to a place where he`s being back Hawks including John Bolton, can you live with that?

Do you think that`s basically a good outcome?

GINSBERG: No, because in the end the Iranians won`t accept that as an outcome. The Iranians have tried diplomacy, the President actually had a back channel through Prime Minister of Japan who tried to open up the back channel between the Iranian government and the President.

The Iranians rejected that. The Iranians want the Europeans to put pressure on the President but the Iraqis will not accept the status quo, they will not accept the President deciding when and where he`s going to lift sanctions without they reacting somehow to change the status in the Gulf.

MELBER: Ambassador Ginsberg, having been there and done that, we appreciate you joining us. I want to turn next to our special report on the Hope Hicks testimony which could shift the Democratic investigation of obstruction when we`re back in 30 seconds.


MELBER: Tonight the top Democrat overseeing the Trump obstruction probe is proclaiming a new legal weapon to fight Trump`s stonewalling. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler  says Hope Hicks` blanket refusal to answer any questions this week about her time in the White House is a gift because it allows Democrats to prove to a judge that the stonewalling is so extreme and beyond executive privilege, that it will be overruled in court.

Now this is something our experts this week have outlined that the seemingly frustrating interview could actually be a strategic coup of sorts strengthening Democrats` hand in court not just for Hicks but other key witnesses as well.

So now in our special report, we dig into the criminal evidence, that Trump doesn`t want you to see in any televised hearings. Call it the negative space in this painting. The key topics that Hicks won`t talk about which include Donald Trump`s efforts to stop Jeff Sessions from ever recusing himself in order to control the Russia investigation.

Mueller amassed evidence with the goal to figure out whether Donald Trump had criminal intent which is the kind of thing Congress can weigh in an impeachment proceeding so consider that the House Democrats lawyer askes Hicks, do you recall after Sessions recused himself Trump was angry and scolded him in your presence?

It`s one of the many questions she ducked. But why? Well, we know when Trump took office, there were all kinds of calls for Sessions to recuse because he worked as a Trump surrogate. It all came to a head though on March 1st 2017.

A Washington Post report that Sessions had met twice with the Russian Ambassador and then hid it and the very next day, this is important, reporters were buzzing about this issue. It turned out Trump had formed a clear view. He stopped during a visit to an aircraft carrier in Virginia and told the world, Session should not recuse.

What you`re about to see was a moment that mattered history because it made Trump`s life in first much harder pressuring your former surrogate and now AG to avoid recusal adds to the very reasons DOJ was trying to make him recuse.


REPORTER: Mr. President, do you still have confidence in the Attorney General?

TRUMP: Total.

REPORTER: Mr. President, should Sessions recuse himself from investigations into your campaign in Russia?

TRUMP: I don`t think so at all.


MELBER: Now we know from the Mueller report that behind the scenes, Trump`s staff was working overtime to stop the refusal. Trump urging White House counsel Don McGahn to talk to Sessions and tell him not to recuse.

McGahn not only trying to convince Sessions personally, he also talked to Sessions on counsel as Chief of Staff and even Mitch McConnell, basically rallying the troops to make the case.

In the end it didn`t work. Here was Sessions an hour after that clip, I just played of Trump making his case.


JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any anyway to the campaigns for President of the United States.


MELBER: That changed everything and Trump didn`t like it. Now the details of the private reaction get pretty startling. Remember, Trump calls McGahn to his office, opens the conversation by saying, "I don`t have a lawyer." Tells McGahn he wished Roy Cohn was his lawyer and he wanted McGahn to convince Sessions to change his mind to unrecuse.

Steve Bannon would describe this as acting as mad as Bannon had ever seen him and then he screamed at McGahn again about how weak Sessions was.

Now, this is all part of what the Democrats want Hope Hicks to be forced to say in public, what she knew about this. This was March 2017. This was before Trump fired Comey, this was before Rosenstein appointed Mueller because when that happened, well, according to the evidence we have, Trump had lost it even further.

Sessions was at the White House. They were meeting about replacing Comey, they get the news and Mueller describes how Sessions leaves the office to take the call from Rosenstein who tells him Mueller`s appointed Sessions. Then has to go tell Donald Trump about all this who he knows thinks it`s his fault.

Sessions tells Trump the news and he "slumped back in his chair and said, oh my God, this is terrible, this is the end of my presidency, I`m f*****. Then he was angry, "lambasting Sessions for the recusal and saying, how could you let this happen Jeff.

He then asked Sessions to resign and he agreed. Now this is the stuff that Democrats want to put in the public record. Keep in mind. If you believe the Mueller report`s evidence which from Trump`s own people. This is the stuff that could have undone the presidency.

There could have been a Saturday night massacre. Now Hope Hicks told Mueller, the only time she had ever seen Trump that upset was when the infamous access Hollywood tape came out. Now Trump appeared insistent, even desperate to try to get control of the investigation.

Has it took down his advisors and saddled him with the highest prosecution rate of any President at this point in their turn. Sessions` recusal clearly made the effort harder. Mueller probing whether Trump`s attacks on Sessions were a new way to get around him, trying to make his life so miserable, he might just leave, giving Trump the chance to pick a new boss for Mueller.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, refuses himself.  I then have -- which frankly I think it`s very unfair to the president.  How do you take a job and then recant yourself?  If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, thanks Jeff, but I can`t -- you know, I`m not going to take you.


MELBER:  And this brings us to the next thing the Democrats want to put in hearings if they win these court cases because Mueller finds that Cory Lewandowski basically tried to get involved with Trump`s request to have a plot to get sessions to stop recusing.  Now, remember Lewandowski is not a government official and he has to tell Sessions he`d be fired if he wouldn`t meet with him.

And then Trump was still out at December 2017, this is after Flynn pleaded guilty, Trump was trying to still get Sessions to un-recuse.  He goes up to him right after a cabinet meeting and says I don`t know if you could un- recuse yourself you`d be a hero, but pretending it wasn`t an order by saying I`m not going to do anything or direct you to do anything.

This is what the Democrats think could make a difference if they had it in hearings with those actual witnesses, the evidence that Trump was trying to kneecap the probe, bend the rule of law, do whatever was helpful.  Now, after all this, Session says it still wasn`t a close call.


JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, UNITED STATES:  I felt I had to recuse myself and I felt very comfortable that that was the right thing.  I thought, if I`m going to have any integrity and any respect within the department, I would have to recuse myself.


MELBER:  But now that the report is out and we`ve seen the evidence of how Trump has tried this investigation, Trump is trying to hold everyone back from answering Congress`s questions on obstruction.  Remember, he also never answered them himself.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ANCHOR, ABC NEWS:  During the first interview, you didn`t answer questions on obstruction.

TRUMP:  No, wait a minute.  Wait a minute.  I did answer questions.  I answered them in writing.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Not on obstruction.

TRUMP:  I don`t know about this -- I don`t know.  I answered a lot of questions.  They gave me questions.  I answer them in writing.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Not on obstruction.

TRUMP:  Look, George, you`re being a little wise guy, OK, which is you know, typical for you.  Just so you understand, very simple, it`s very simple.  There was no crime.  There was no collusion.


MELBER:  There was no crime.  Now, this is the heart of it.  If Donald Trump gets what he wants, there won`t be any public televised hearings which you know, move people to discuss whether there was "a crime."  In the case of the president, it`s the Congress that decides that.  And all of this is at issue because it depends on whether you know what`s in the report.


TRUMP:  He said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  He said he didn`t look at --

TRUMP:  George, the report said, no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Did you read the report?

TRUMP:  Yes, I did.  And you should read it too.


TRUMP:  Come con let`s go.  You should read it too, George.


MELBER:  You should read it as he gets out of the car.  But we have read the report.  That`s why we report from what`s in it in the facts.  And that`s why it`s so interesting that Donald Trump has as always two strategies, a public one that says hey, everyone should read the report.  It helps me.  And then a private legal strategy that says no matter what, they will fight to the courts to prevent the report from being presented by the Congress and yes, on television.

We will stay on the facts.  Coming up, we`ve gone deep into the kraits what the Democratic candidates were like on their first debate stages and what it means for next week.  And then later, Tom Steyer is here on impeachment.




BILL DE BLASIO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I am feeling really happy to be in the debate.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`m going to figure out what it`s like to only be able to talk for 60 seconds.


MELBER:  2020 candidates talking about these debates that are on the way.  This is the final weekend of campaigning before the first time that most voters not those of us like you and me who follow the news a lot, but most voters will see them up close.  Now, tomorrow, Biden is appearing an event with the other candidates.  It`s the first time he`s done that in South Carolina`s party convention.

Meanwhile, Wednesday and Thursday is the first nationally televised debates for basically 20 candidates on the stage.  Biden and Bernie have done stuff like this before, most have not at a presidential level.  But they do have debate experience even if it`s quite local.  Take a look at the archives.


WARREN:  This is the first time I`ve ever run for public office.

DE BLASIO:  I want to be a strong public advocate who can stand up to the - -

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We want an attorney general who has a plan.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It is safer for a bicycle to be on the road and not on the sidewalk.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This is an exciting time to be in our business and no better time to be president.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I`ve been very proud to represent Vermont for eight years.


MELBER:  What are we doing with all that footage, just having fun, just nerding out?  Not exactly.  The reason why we`ve started pulling that and a whole lot more is to really take a look at the facts, and the records, and the strategies of all these people including the most diverse presidential field of any party ever.

So this Sunday I`m thrilled to tell you we`re going to preview all of it in a special on MSNBC.  My guests will include the man who prepped Obama`s debate strategy which many people say worked Robert Barnett, the Chair the Democratic Party Tom Perez, Cecile Richards, Al Sharpton, and Howard Dean who debated each other in a presidential race, Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times Chief Howell Raines and a whole lot more.  That is 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  We`re doing it live, The Road to Miami.  I am thrilled to be a part of the coverage and I hope you will tune in or DVR Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern.  Be there.

Now, coming up, two more Democrats raising their hands and saying they`re for impeachment.  Billionaire activist Tom Steyer says it may be a slow motion but it looks like a movement and a movement to impeach Trump when we come back.


MELBER:  As promised, we`re joined live by the man, the billionaire behind this impeachment push Tom Steyer.  He`s the founder of "Need To Impeach" an advocacy group.  First of all, good evening.


MELBER:  I`m pretty good.  You know, we come to you from time to time, as far as we know, the wealthiest supporter of impeachment in the world.  Although you are -- you`re more than that and you got your money by doing a lot of work and also you`re someone that I hear from other Democrats is known to be thoughtful and strategic.

You disagree with what Donald Trump again claim today that he welcomes this.  Let`s take a look at your new ad.


STEYER:  Right now, Donald Trump is committing crimes in the oath of Congress and that means both parts.  They must put their own political interests aside and focus on what`s right for our country.  If we can`t trust them on this, how can we trust them with our nation`s biggest challenges?


MELBER:  You make a reasonable case but a lot of people say you are losing that 75 which is where it`s -- where it`s at tonight is still a minority of the Democratic caucus.  Your response.

STEYER:  Well, I think a couple of things, Ari.  First of all, what we`re really focused on is trying to get impeachment hearings in front of the American people and I think that there`s a Fox poll out yesterday that says that 50 percent of Americans even without televised hearings thinks that the impeachment proceedings should start.

And the second thing I`d say is this.  Look, there is great momentum behind this, ten more Congresspeople went public this week to start impeachment.  But I think more than that, a ton of Congresspeople don`t want to go public because they`re loyal to Speaker Pelosi and they want her to be able to set the timing on this.

MELBER:  So let`s talk -- that`s what I`m especially interested in because you -- and I want to be clear with my viewers, you know these folks -- you have a lot of conversations off-the-record, high-level, you`re putting the pressure on, show folks campaign here is rolling out these ads, billboards, outreach in 12 specific Democratic districts so you`re putting the heat on.

Are you basically telling us that it is only the goodwill and respect for speaker Pelosi who`s obviously served Democrats as her party for decades that`s holding this back, and if not for her it would be way above 74?

STEYER:  Well, I think that everybody in Washington D.C., Democrats and Republicans alike know that this is the most corrupt president in American history.  They know that he is unfit for office.  They are watching him flounder and make mistakes and do the wrong thing every single day.

And I think that Democrats across the country are waiting to see how we`re going to proceed but I think the question as to whether we should proceed and whether it`s whether this president deserves impeachment has been pretty much asked and answered.

So yes, I think it`s a question of you know, what is the right way to proceed at this point rather than whether.

MELBER:  Let me also ask you about some of the new materials we get.  We get all kinds of different evidence.  I showed earlier in a breakdown that Donald Trump claims he wants people who have been read the Mueller report but of course his entire legal strategy is kneecapping and shutting down any hearing that would deal with the evidence of the Mueller report.

And then take a look at something brand-new here.  This is Paul Manafort secretly texting with Sean Hannity March 18.  They want me, he`s talking about the Mueller investigators to give up Donald Trump or family especially Kushner I would never do that.  Hannity replies, understand.  There`s nothing to give up on Trump.  What did Kushner do?

Manafort says nothing, just like I did nothing.  I will point out that a jury disagreed.  And then April 10th, Hannity, time to say F.U. and go to war.  This is a Fox anchor appearing to give private counsel, strategy.  Manafort, yes.  Hannity, that`s what will now happen.  Then they will get Jared and try to get POTUS to explode.  These are what are known in the business is hot texts.  I`m curious what you think of them.

STEYER:  Look, I think what we`ve seen is that we have a president who is clearly guilty.  He surrounded himself within his administration and his advisors with people who are criminals and they are then constructing their defense knowing that they`re guilty trying to figure out how to basically beat the rap.

And that is the kind of conversation and the kind of planning that you would expect from mobsters on a T.V. show.  So that`s actually what we`re seeing.  We are seeing a deliberate attempt by the President to obstruct justice in plain view having been basically shown by the Mueller report to have obstructed justice virtually from his first day in office.  And we`re seeing more of it, it`s widespread, it`s absolutely wrong.

MELBER:  And are you hearing -- last question -- that Mueller is really going to testify in public or not?

STEYER:  You know, Ari.  I`m the last person to ask a question like that.  You know, we really --

MELBER:  I ask you because I know who you talk to.

STEYER:  No  We really are focused on the American people not inside the beltway.  They`re plenty of people --

MELBER:  Did you know who I call at?  I`m going to tell the same -- I`m going to tell you the same thing I call that a talking point which is what I was getting from the Trump communications director last night.

STEYER:  No, I really don`t know.

MELBER:  You don`t know?

STEYER:  I literally don`t know.  But more than that and this is what I was trying to say is I`m the last person who would know.  I don`t know but I`m the last person who`d be into that kind of you know, inside the beltway gossip information.  I`m not --

MELBER:  Well, I wouldn`t say gossip. I now just say this in closing.  I don`t call it gossip.  I think a lot of folks were interested in this stuff.  We`re not in all the rooms that you`re in.  You have a staff.  You have a political organization.  You know a lot of people so I think you`re protesting a bit too much about being uninformed.

STEYER:  Well, but let me say this.  What we have done from the beginning is use public sources.

MELBER:  Outside -- yes.

STEYER:  That`s what we`re doing now.  We have really no access to anything but the information in public about right and wrong is very, very clear.

MELBER:  And this may be the first time in your life you`ve heard this.  I have to -- I have to cut you off to get to hip-hop legend Pete Rock.  And I only push you, sir, because it`s part of my job.  I appreciate you coming on THE BEAT.

STEYER:  OK, Ari, nice to talk to you.

MELBER:  Thank you, Tom Steyer.  Now it is Friday, we`re going to fit in a break.  And when we come back, we fall back.  Legendary hip-hop icon Pete Rock in the house along with the one and only Sweleanor when we come back.


MELBER:  It`s Friday on THE BEAT so you know it`s time to fall back.  I`m joined tonight by hip-hop legend Pete Rock who released a series of hit under Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth and also produced some of the most iconic music you know he won a Grammy for his work on Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which debuted number one, and also collaborated with people like I don`t know Mick Jagger, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Common, Nas, Method Man, and The Notorious BIG.

And tonight, we are accompanied by The Daily Beast Eleanor Clift, the Washington Journalism legend who collaborated with her own long list his name.

PETE ROCK, RAPPER:  Man, this is cool.

MELBER:  Right, she is cool.  Don McLaughlin, Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman, Clarence Page, and of course Jack Germond.  She cameo as herself in the film Independence Day.  I love having you both here.  Happy Friday!

ELEANOR CLIFT, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  We`re both boroughs.  I`m Queens and he`s Bronx.

MELBER:  There it is.  There it is.  Pete, who needs to fall back?

ROCK:  Let me see, global warming.

MELBER:  Global warming.

ROCK:  Yes.

MELBER:  And these Republicans.

ROCK:  Yes.

MELBER: There was a story here that some of them were just ducking a vote entirely.

ROCK:  Yes, it makes no sense because you know, the weather is like, you know, part of how we live on this earth and you know, I feel like it`s being tampered with.  I feel like, you know, we get cold days when it`s supposed to be warm and vice versa, you know what I`m saying?  Something is up with that.

MELBER:  You`re convinced both from the science and your life experience.

ROCK:  Something is up with that right there.

CLIFT:  Yes, and I don`t think I`m going to talk about the difference between weather and climate because he`s got the right instinct, but I think you`re referring to this story in Oregon where they were holding a vote to pass a carbon control legislation and the Republicans left town because they didn`t want to -- they didn`t want to allow the Democrats to have a quorum to pass the legislation.  That is really chicken.

MELBER:  Yes, and in different states it happened -- in different states -- wait, the governor is cracking down trying to make them vote.

CLIFT:  And apparently the law enforcement can go after them and put them in the police car and take them to the legislature.  They`re allowed to do that.

MELBER:  That`s wild, right?

CLIFT:  I think that`s a good -- that`s a good lesson for Congress.

MELBER:  I think that would be great if they could do that in Congress.

ROCK:  I think that`s a great lockdown you know, to get something done.

MELBER:  Eleanor, I`m going to play a little bit of Mitch McConnell who I heard is on your fall back list and everyone can just remember his embracing his Pelosi nickname as grim reaper.  Take a look.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Leader McConnell seems to take great pride in calling himself the grim reaper.  It`s part of his political campaign.  It`s part of the pride he takes as leader of the Senate.  And as you`ve seen, he wants to bury, none of these things are going to pass, they won`t even be voted on.  So think of me as the grim reaper.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  For the first time in my memory, I agree with Nancy Pelosi.  I am indeed the grim reaper. 


CLIFT:  He thinks it`s a flattering name, maybe serial killer and we can change the potomac to the river sticks.

MELBER:  I mean, he`s killing a lot of bills.

CLIFT:  He`s killing a lot of bills and --

MELBER:  Which is different, Pete, than killing bars.

ROCK:  Yes, I mean, you know --

MELBER:  You know, you kill bars, that`s a good thing.  You get that, right, Eleanor?

CLIFT:  I think that`s a musical term, right?

ROCK:  Yes, it is.

CLIFT:  Yes, OK.

ROCK:  It`s about -- it`s about rhymes.  She got it.

CLIFT:  That`s right.

MELBER:  So you think that Mitch McConnell -- it`s weird to go to -- this is my thing.  I always look for the common purpose and there are people who go to Congress with different beliefs but they want to do good things.  But isn`t it weird to go to Congress and say I`m going to be a lawmaker, make laws.  And then your thing as we just saw is proudly saying I`m the grim reaper, we`re not making any laws.

CLIFT:  Because he`s in it for the power and to stay in control. And he`s been very effective at throwing shade on what the Democrats do.  The Democrats have actually -- have actually passed some good legislation in the House but nobody in the country knows anything about it thanks to Mitch McConnell.  So he`s very good at his -- at his job, if you -- if you consider his job as a partisan leader.

MELBER:  Pete, what do you think?

ROCK:  You know, the reparations got me bothered when he said that.

MELBER:  When he said this is not about anyone that`s living today.

ROCK:  Right. And no one should be charged 150, 250 years later you know what I`m saying, for you know, he said that, you know, we -- you know, we gave you guys Obama and that should make up for you know, slavery.

MELBER:  That was wild, right?  How did you feel looking at this -- you`re now middle-aged man and you`ve come through this whole great musical experience.  How did you feel looking at the Congress this week holding a hearing on reparations, which is a shift itself?

ROCK:  I just thought it was nonsense, you know.  I didn`t feel like, you know -- I mean as far as, you know, what he said --

MELBER:  What he said, right.

ROCK:  But as far as reparations, I believe in that.  I believe we should have that.

MELBER:  Do you -- does it -- does it surprise you to see multiple Democrats running for office on this because Obama was more against it.  Now we had Booker on our show, Senator Cory Booker saying at least he`s for studying it.

ROCK:  Well, I mean, you know, I feel like, you know, people have to try something to see if it works, you know what I`m saying?  And my thing is, you know, it`s hard for people to accept what they`re hearing and what they`re seeing on these news channels today, man, like what people are saying.  It`s just -- it`s just shocking to me, you know.

I`m not really heavy into politics, but I do -- when I do see something I don`t like, you know, I`ll speak on it.

MELBER:  Yes, I love having you on.  I know you a little bit through this, and I think your mom likes MSNBC too.

ROCK:  Of course.  We watch the "TODAY SHOW" and all that.

MELBER:  Shall we say shout out to Mrs. Rock?

ROCK:  Yes, shout out --

MELBER:  Shout out to Mrs. Rock.  Miss. Phillips, Pete Rock`s mom.

CLIFT:  This is his birthday, by the way.

MELBER:  You didn`t tell me that.

ROCK:  I didn`t tell you today is my birthday?

MELBER:  How about that?  Happy Birthday!  That`s a nice way to end the week.  Eleanor and Pete Rock, thank you both.

ROCK:  Thank you.

MELBER: That does it for us.  You can catch us Sunday night.  I`m doing a live special, 9:00 p.m. Eastern through 11:00 on the democratic debates.  The road to Miami with a lot of special guest, that`s this Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern live.  So I hope you`ll join us.

But don`t go anywhere right now because "HARDBALL" is up next.